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Category A

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Mental Relaxation: The Key to Body Flight

In the early categories, like a magic mantra, you’ll hear over and over again from your instructors: “Altitude, arch, legs, relax.” Managing all four points at once is the key to controlled freefall.

After altitude awareness, relaxing is your key goal. It takes only a little push from the hips to get an effective arch, and you usually need to extend your legs only a little to get use of them in the wind. But you need to relax your other muscles a lot.

There are many other relaxation techniques you can borrow or develop, but choose one and practice it until you perfect it, even when you’re not skydiving.

So how can a brand-new skydiver relax in such an adrenaline-charged, exciting, and new environment?

Sports psychologists all recognize the value of staying loose and mentally relaxed for peak performance. Many describe ways to achieve a state of prepared relaxation. Each athlete learns to develop one technique and uses it to gain that state before and maintain it during every performance.

Almost all the techniques begin with slower, deeper, controlled breathing. Learn to breathe from deep in your lungs, using the muscles of your diaphragm. Practice breathing in slowly until your lungs are full and then emptying your lungs completely when you breathe out.

While you practice controlled breathing, you can use one of several suggested devices to relax your mind and your body:

  • Imagine yourself in a familiar, comfortable place, trying to visualize every sensual experience that you can associate with it: sight, sound, odor, taste, and touch. Picture the colors of the background and the details, try to smell the air as it would be, imagine you hear the sounds, and feel the air on your face. Imagine you just took a sip of your favorite drink.
  • Relax your body part by part, starting with your toes, then your ankles, calves, thighs, hips, abdomen, etc., spending five to ten seconds in each place while continuing your controlled breathing.
  • Count up to ten with each breath and then backward to zero.

There are many other relaxation techniques you can borrow or develop, but choose one and practice it until you perfect it, even when you’re not skydiving. That way, you can relax yourself quickly and effectively whenever the need arises—such as just before a skydive.

You should continue controlling your breathing as you’re getting ready to jump. Move slowly and deliberately in the aircraft as you approach the door and get into position, not only for safety but to help you maintain your relaxed, prepared state for the jump. Take another breath just before you actually launch from the aircraft and again to help you settle into freefall as soon as you let go. Make breathing part of every sequence, especially as you go through your “altitude, arch, legs, relax” sequence.

While skydiving is inherently a high-speed sport, you’ll notice that the best skydivers never do anything in a hurry.